There is no fun times, powder riding, video edit for this post. We did ride our boards, we did find snow in the Cascades during what is a dismal early winter but the snowboarding downhill was not what was most important. New Years 2015 for Nikki and I consisted of a drive down to Sisters, Oregon to ride Tam McArthur Rim. This was a hale marry attempt to be in the mountain for New Years and avoid crowded resorts.
Using a borrowed trailer towed behind my Passat Wagon, we left Portland in the early morning darkness. Our hope was that recent snow fall had covered the road into the Rim enough to snowmobile the 6 miles of trail to the wilderness boundary. Once at the boundary of Three Creeks Lake, the snowboarding terrain starts, accessible only by foot. We met Ben, Charley and Harleigh who drove over from Bend in Charley’s RV. The small yet luxurious RV would serve as our New Years trailhead accommodations. By the time we made it to Tam from Portland, it was a late start to the day and a really cold one with temps in the low teens. The good news was that the trailhead was stacked with over a foot of fresh snow, making for an easy snowmobile escape to the wilderness.
Lowered expectations can bring much happiness. We had received a bad conditions report before leaving Portland. With my experience in the backcountry, I’ve learned what it takes for a day filled with turns and that’s a stacked hand of good cards. Going into New Years, all bets were off. When we made it to the wilderness, I felt like our whole group was satisfied just by being strapped into our touring gear. Our gamble had already paid off just by arriving at a pretty touring zone with fresh snow. Tam was empty, beautiful, cold and clear. The riding was less of a concern for our group. We had two newbies to the backcountry in our party. None of us had toured together before so this slowed the approach, which was understood and enjoyed. Nikki rented a split from the Mountain Shop, getter her first taste of snowboarding among nature instead of crowds. She quickly learned that this simple activity has many nuances that can be much more difficult than meets the eye. While fussing with her gear, she looked up at me and said “the struggle is real”. That phrase stuck around for the remained of the weekend.
New Years night was spent enjoying a round of beers at Three Creeks brewery. We quickly returned up to altitude at the trailhead in single degree weather. A clear sky and big moon reflected off the fresh snow while we chatted with members of the trail grooming club who had stopped by the warming hut. Their fancy snow cat idled outside the hut as members gathered and stoked a fire in the wood stove. As they left, we took over the hut for the remainder of the night with a rousing Yahtzee game. It was a very authentic “back-woods” New Years.
Up early with the Tyler alarm, day two moved faster. A scary weather warm-up was approaching. New Year’s day gave us quicker, higher tours. Views of the beautiful, central, eastern cascades terrain lay below us. We made two short laps in some great 8-12 inch snow. No pictures, no video. I was focused on the turns and focused on communication with a group I don’t often ride with. I earned “Yahtzee rights”, dropping first into a short but pleasing powder run. Rolling off a cornice, dropping eight plus feet down into a powdery bowl. Six turns later I was cutting out to the safety zone with a big grin. Small touches of snowboarding success go a long way during a scarce winter such as this. New Years was a success.